States Continue to Cut Mental Health Funding, but You Can Take a Stand

DEC. 08, 2015

By Jessica W. Hart

Every single day people are battling towards recovery from mental health conditions for themselves or their loved ones. Every. Single. Day. Fortunately, NAMI is here to help. We reach out and lend a hand in communities around the country through support groups, education and presentation programs.

This is where you can talk with friends and your NAMI family about what is going on in your life and find understanding and support. Sometimes, this conversation can shift to the challenges that you face when trying to find services and supports for yourself or a loved one.

Are you having trouble getting safe, affordable housing? Is your daughter showing early signs of psychosis, but you can’t find services? Is your son in jail, not getting any treatment and has been put in solitary confinement? Are you struggling to find an inpatient bed for your significant other? Do you even have access to mental health professionals or is your closest psychiatrist six hours away?

Here is where NAMI advocates pick up the ball. Advocates see the broken system and challenges that are preventing people from getting the help they need and ask, “How can I make it better? What can we as a community, state or country do to fix what I see going wrong?” Then they work hard to change it.

You have the power to be a NAMI advocate.

All you need is your voice and the fire inside to make the system better for yourself, your loved ones and your NAMI family. For you, our newest NAMI advocate, we have a new report on state legislation that you can use to make the mental health system in your state better.

Look at the map above. See whether your state is investing more money—or less—into your mental health system. If you don’t like what you see, look up your state elected officials and call, email and tweet them. Ask them to increase the mental health budget when the state legislature comes back into session. Tell them you are a voting constituent. Explain what it would mean to you or your family member for them to make the commitment to invest in the mental health budget.

Did some of the situations above where people couldn’t get the care they need sound familiar? The good news is that some states saw those challenges and took up the banner to advocate for better services and supports and succeeded. You can succeed, too, by taking what these states have already done and giving it to your local elected official to introduce as a bill in your state.

Five bills stood out to NAMI, and you have a role to make them a reality across the country.


How many people do you know in your community with mental illness who cannot find safe, affordable housing? Housing is a cornerstone of recovery for people with mental illness, yet, on average, the rent for a studio apartment rent exceeds 90% of disability income. Arizona created a housing trust fund for rental assistance to people with serious mental illness through HB 2488. If housing is something you are passionate about, take this piece of legislation to your local elected official.

First Episode Psychosis Programs

Are you interested in making sure that people with early psychosis get the services they need? You can help by getting your state to join the investment in evidence-based practices. Leading research shows that early intervention through First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs enables young people to manage psychosis and get on with their lives. Minnesota enhanced federal dollars through the passage of SF 1458 which supports evidence-based FEP programs.

Criminal Justice and Mental Health

Do you think it is horrible that 2 million people with mental illness are currently in jail instead of getting services they need in the community or hospital? You can help rectify this injustice in your state by looking to states like Utah. Utah passed a bill (HB 348) that requires the state departments of corrections and mental health to collaborate on providing mental health treatment to inmates, developing alternatives to incarceration and implementing graduated sanctions and incentives.

Psychiatric Inpatient Beds

Do you think that your state doesn’t have a good enough system or a system at all for tracking psychiatric inpatient beds? You should look to Virginia. Finding a psychiatric bed in a crisis is challenging. As a result, people with mental illness are often boarded in emergency departments for exceptionally long periods. Lack of information on the availability of psychiatric beds throughout a state is often part of the problem. Virginia HB 2118 requires all public and private facilities to report psychiatric inpatient and crisis stabilization beds at least once daily.


Is your policy issue the shortage of mental health professionals? Washington State is trying to fix this common problem. Nationwide, there is an acute shortage of mental health professionals. Telehealth can make mental health expertise more available to underserved communities using readily available technology. However, challenges in reimbursement have resulted in underuse of this valuable resource. Washington’s bill (SB 5175) defines telemedicine as a reimbursable service for the purposes of diagnosis, consultation or treatment.

Use the report as a tool to help drive policies and investments that will improve your state mental health system. Look for the gold stars in the policy issues that you care about. Call, email and tweet your elected official to get them on board.

Together as NAMI advocates we can build a movement to help transform the mental health system in America.


DEC, 15, 2016 05:51:22 PM
Hector Gonzalez
Let's give the mentally ill population a CHRISTMAS present by demanding of the state to conduct an investigation into the abusive, negligent and at times criminal practices of some of the Medical & Care providers operating with impunity under the protection of state agencies. Americans demand of the crooked politicians Fair treatment for the mentally. Please make it go viral this is the only way to ensure ethical treatment for the mentally ill, my son is one of those abused.

JAN, 08, 2016 04:19:55 PM
@Francis James.... first generation of American mental asylums did not work and was a complete disaster. Institutions are not even close to an answer for mental health treatment.

But today we face a similar danger which is when the so called "normals" draw correlations of Mental Health, Criminals and ADOA issues, which are completely SEPARATE and grouping them together as a way of comforting the "normals" for an explanation of understanding mental illness is equally disastrous.
As an individual with depression and bipolar disorder myself, I find the thought extremely discomforting of being categorized into a class of people I cannot relate to...which are criminals and people with AODA issues.
Across the country DHS departments are grouping mental illnesses, AODA and Corrections all under one "Resource" for people with mental health issues. I find this dangerous, discriminatory and ignorant.

JAN, 07, 2016 04:25:24 PM
There just simply are not enough boots on the ground to give an incite to what's going on. I spent a good 2 days researching and making calls to Arizona. There are virtually NO resources for people with mental illnesses finding housing in Arizona. I was looking to relocating from the Midwest do to the harsh winters affecting my depression. Literally ALL of the HUD/PHA's a low income housing market is reserved just for Seniors and people with physical disabilities. I thought there was a Federal law passed that stated that it's illegal to separate Physical and Mental disabilities?? In my research...Arizona was/is NOT very disability friendly. I truthfully believe they are not even aware of they're own policies.

JAN, 02, 2016 06:38:26 PM
All I can say is over two hundred years ago Doretha Dix found the same
challenge as we have today and created a mental system that worked
for that era.Does history repeat its self?

JAN, 01, 2016 01:56:04 AM
We need help after our loved ones are released from hospital... Then what? They just slip back into the same awful backwards spiral into the disease that sent them there in the first place!!! Why won't they let the parents help... Why don't we have a voice??? They are happy to take our money. But nothing else. We care, why don't the doctors and social workers??

DEC, 31, 2015 02:59:16 PM
Toree halstensen
Needing support and information. thanks

DEC, 30, 2015 09:31:47 PM
Local in Fort Collins, CO
I wonder how accurate the chart is on State Mental Health Budgets. I live in Colorado and know that my Medicare reimbursement claims have been cut as well as the local community mental health agency has had their funding cut through Medicaid. So, in the long run, posting a chart on State funding is not accurate if providers are not able to keep up with providing their services. In addition, it is my understanding that state mental health dollars are allocated by Block Grants and it is up to the administrators at the state level to allocate funds, how is funding allocated per region in each state. So, how true is the green color on the chart suggesting an increase in funding for each state. I would like to see some transparency from each state in how much of the Block Grant money is allocated to each region in the state and how the decrease in funding of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement affects service provision. Thank you.

DEC, 15, 2015 11:54:07 PM
There is a horrific gap in the mental health system after hospitalizations, because there isn't a good enough step-down, outpatient therapy, or housing options for the people faced with these illnesses.Then the system wants them to advocate for themselves,and make there own decisions about their care; no wonder there are so many people with mental disorders on the streets homeless or in jail. What's wrong with us as a society? How long will this be ignored?

DEC, 15, 2015 02:05:08 PM
Mary Thayer
I would like to learn more about advocating for those involved withe DHHS & the legal system.

DEC, 15, 2015 09:08:22 AM
Arnold Cabral
My belief someone get back to me or help me to create a PTSD MEETING FOR PTSD FOR Non Combat Veterans for PTSD in Arizona and every other State that doesn't have one....Please

DEC, 12, 2015 12:27:17 PM
randy hayes
nami is one of my favorite advocacy groups for persons and families dealing with mental illness in our community.

DEC, 09, 2015 02:58:45 PM
SHOCKED,SADDENED,ANGRY and definitely informed more so now than before this post. They say everyone knows someone who has or is dealing with or lost someone to all honesty I think more people suffer with mental illness than are willing to admit or accept. People feel embarrassed & ostrisized & some ashamed due to the stigma and uneducated views of some. Derogatory words used to describe ones emotions or mentality only serve to prove how very little you fully understand the many different forms of menta illness. Do a very good thing for yourself or maybe your child or husband anyone in your personal life you care about look up mental illness research it in its could very well have the devastating illness touch you in some way. May you discover and gain knowledge of the one illness that really does touch us all to some degree or another. Thank You, God Bless

DEC, 09, 2015 11:08:28 AM
Heather Seibert
I been in the mental health system for 27yrs and we need our Mental Health support and funding. Our clients, family and friends need this to help them live more independently and fulfilling life. When I was diagnosed at 17yrs old luckily, I had family and friends that we huge support but with out these funding I am sad to say we are unable to help mental health providers and clients. Support is important and I also have alot of input that can be changed and could discuss to help others. If willing to contact me please feel free.

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.